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34 of 39 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Flawed reasoning skills detract from interesting stories about underdogs
I have read and reviewed all of Malcolm Gladwell's previous books and consider him to be among the most talented and energetic of journalists, with most of his work featured in The New Yorker. He also has superb storyteller skills. His "discoveries" tend to be well-known to those knowledgeable about the given subject. In The Tipping Point, for example, he discusses a...
Published 11 months ago by Robert Morris

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30 of 30 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Doesn't quite pull it off
Gladwell has a formula: he picks a grand thesis - in this case that what are ordinarily perceived of as disadvantages might not be wholly negative - and then carefully arranges around it anecdotes of such simple humanity that one is forced, between dabbing the tears away and spontaneous rounds of applause, to swallow the damn thing whole.

There's a circle of...
Published 3 months ago by boggisbitesvampires


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30 of 30 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Doesn't quite pull it off, 25 May 2014
Gladwell has a formula: he picks a grand thesis - in this case that what are ordinarily perceived of as disadvantages might not be wholly negative - and then carefully arranges around it anecdotes of such simple humanity that one is forced, between dabbing the tears away and spontaneous rounds of applause, to swallow the damn thing whole.

There's a circle of scientific hell set aside for those who build their theses from anecdotes and artfully chosen evidence. However, people love anecdotes and when skilfully done it can bamboozle the critical faculties of the audience like a well rehearsed magic trick. The problem is, in David and Goliath, the patter seems a bit more forced, Gladwell fluffs the shuffle and we can, quite clearly, see a dove's head poking out of his sleeve and cooing insistently.

The anecdotes drag out a bit too long, to the extent that you start to wonder not only what the point is, but whether there's a point at all. Sometimes the point is separated so distantly from the anecdote that a quick flick back through the book is necessary. When that happens, the author has lost control and the effect falls to pieces. Gladwell relies so heavily on effect rather than a coherent argument that if we don't buy into it completely, we don't buy into it at all.

That's not to say that there's nothing in the book worth reading. There are some excellent paradoxical nuggets of insight and he still has a knack for taking something familiar - like the story of David and Goliath, which opens the book - and giving you a whole new way of looking at it. He also has a collection of stories about people that are fascinating in their own right.

So, yes, there are high points scattered through the book, but the whole seems half finished as if he didn't have the time to properly gather his thoughts together before committing them to the printer.
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30 of 31 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Good in parts, 5 Nov 2013
This review is from: David and Goliath: Underdogs, Misfits and the Art of Battling Giants (Hardcover)
There is no doubt that Gladwell is an entertaining writer and parts of this book are fun to read. However, as with "Tipping Point" I got half way through and thought this is repeating the same fairly obvious point again and again. I was also put off by his very one sided account of the early days of the Northern Ireland troubles. Some of what he says is true, some statements are sweeping without a shred of evidence, and the whole piece needs to be put into a proper historical context - otherwise it could be misleading, particularly to an American audience.
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Enjoyable read, but not to be taken too seriously, 21 Dec 2013
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This review is from: David and Goliath: Underdogs, Misfits and the Art of Battling Giants (Hardcover)
I love reading Malcolm Gladwell books. He's an incredibly compelling writer, and this book is no different. It's an interesting and thought-provoking book. However, as with some of his previous writings, it completely lacks the rigour to be taken seriously. In virtually every chapter he states a non-obvious point, but then tells a single, non-representative story to back it up. Which is great for helping you understand what he's saying, but certainly not enough if you're thinking critically to believe it.
Overall, if you're looking for a fun read buy this book, but if you're looking to learn the "art of battling giants", this isn't going to do it. And since that's part of the title, this book only earns 2-stars.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars I could forgive Gladwell his sweeping generalisations, backed up ..., 5 Aug 2014
I could forgive Gladwell his sweeping generalisations, backed up in some cases by no evidence whatsoever, up until the chapter about the conflict in Northern Ireland. I was appalled to see a respected writer give such a one sided and misleading account of a very complex and destructive situation (on BOTH sides!). Either his research was seriously flawed or he chose to ignore the more inconvenient facts in order, ironically, to legitimise his theory about legitimacy.
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34 of 39 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Flawed reasoning skills detract from interesting stories about underdogs, 7 Oct 2013
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Robert Morris (Dallas, Texas) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: David and Goliath: Underdogs, Misfits and the Art of Battling Giants (Hardcover)
I have read and reviewed all of Malcolm Gladwell's previous books and consider him to be among the most talented and energetic of journalists, with most of his work featured in The New Yorker. He also has superb storyteller skills. His "discoveries" tend to be well-known to those knowledgeable about the given subject. In The Tipping Point, for example, he discusses a phenomenon previous characterized by Michael Kami as a "trigger point" and later by Andrew Grove as an "inflection point." Or consider "the secret of success" that he discusses in The Outliers. For decades, Anders Ericsson and his associates at Florida State University have been conducting research on peak performance. He duly acknowledges sources such as Ericsson and should be praised for attracting greater attention to the subjects he discusses. That is Gladwell's great value.

However, in his latest book, David and Goliath, he demonstrates faulty reasoning, such as what Christopher Chabris characterizes as "the fallacy of the unexamined premise." He also has problems with causal relationships and this is not the first time that Gladwell confuses "because" with "despite." For example, consider his assertion that attorney David Boies's great success is largely explained by the fact that he is dyslexic. Overcoming learning disabilities may have been - for Boies as well as countless others -- what Warren Bennis and David Thomas characterize as a "crucible" that strengthens and enlightens those who emerge from it.

In this context, I am reminded of the fact that one of the world's most renowned authorities on ADHD, Edward ("Ned") Hallowell, is an author of countless books and articles on the subject, a child and adult psychiatrist, and a New York Times bestselling author. Also, he is a graduate of Harvard College and Tulane Medical School as well as the founder of The Hallowell Centers in Sudbury, Massachusetts, and New York City. Are these great achievements because or despite the fact that Hallowell is ADHD?

In his latest book, Gladwell relies too heavily on insufficient evidence or, worst yet, only on evidence that supports his premise. Yes, peak performers such as Boies, Richard Branson, Brian Glazer, David Neeleman, and Charles Schwab overcame severe learning disabilities and yes, 12 of 44 U.S. Presidents (including the first and the current) lost their father at an early age. There is no shortage of examples of women as well as men who have a "story of success" despite all manner of physical, social, and/or economic limitations.

Gladwell is at his best when sharing what he has learned after exploring subjects of special interest to him. As indicated, I admire his skills as a journalist and storyteller. What I view as his defective reasoning skills detract from the presentation of some (not all) if the material in David and Goliath, hence the Four Star rating.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars good start that fades away over time, 31 May 2014
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This is the third book I read by Gladwell. The first few chapters were really interesting and moving. But when he started talking about Belfast and France in the Second World War, the examples don't prove anything. Sorry only 3 stars .
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4.0 out of 5 stars A must-read!, 27 Aug 2014
Personally, I've always been interested in stories of successful people who went all the way up the social ladder despite their poor background. This is a book that begins with a well-known legend embedded in the the ancient history featuring two soldiers in the act of fighting each other: they are David and Goliath and though the combat looks apparently unfair given the disproportion in size and strenght of the two fighters, the outcome is filled with surprise. The skinny shepherd who steps up amid an army of frightened soldiers to take on the challenge issued by the terrifying giant opponent will eventually win against all the odds. Later in the book, the author would explain that recent studies suggest that what looked like a plain advantage for Goliath (his musclar strenght and particularly his extraordinary size) was in fact the source of great weakness. Indeed, people that tall are often found to be affected by movement impairments or sight difficulties which make them highly vulnerable in fights (especially when the opponent stands many meters away and is not intended to get involved in a hand-to-hand combat). The rest of the book (that's just the first chapter) gives room to the extraordinary ability of the author to put everything in perspective and let the reader see things from a new one: that's the angle of underdogs.
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17 of 21 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars One of the weaker Gladwell books but with lots of interesting content nevertheless, 4 Oct 2013
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AK (London) - See all my reviews
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Malcolm Gladwell has justifiably become one of the more popular non-fiction writers - his previous books such as The Tipping Point: How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference or Outliers: The Story of Success have done an excellent job of synthesizing scientific research that was perhaps not always intuitively appealing into a very readable and easy to digest format.

Partially the current book - 'David and Goliath' - follows in the same vein. He is still one of the easiest writers to read and the concept, namely that the cards are often stacked against the more powerful 'Goliath', is a common, if not often acknowledged one.

The book starts well enough with the original David and Goliath story and then progresses through plenty of individual cases on how the weaker side successfully took on the conventionally more powerful one. The examples range from basketball, dyslexia, to the treatment of leukemia, the civil right movement, Northern Ireland and the 'three strike policy'.

If you are looking for a well argued scientific treatise, the book will possibly disappoint. While research is often used to strengthen the points the author tries to make, it is less pervasive than in his other books; here much more is based on individual case studies.

Nevertheless, if you use the book primarily as a 'food for thought' material, there are certainly plenty of interesting cases to work from here and the author (sometimes narrowly) avoids the trap of claiming that the position of the weaker, disadvantaged party is by definition the preferable one. He ably demonstrates that there are certain strengths that can be drawn from a position conventionally defined as the weaker one, from never giving up, not playing according to (informal) rules, avoiding your opponents' strength, to building on the mechanisms that helped you overcome your weakness...

Quite some of the points are not new, and some recent Po Bronson non-fiction books such as Top Dog: The Science of Winning and Losing or Nurtureshock: Why Everything We Thought About Children is Wrong perhaps demonstrate them with more scientific support, even if they do not read quite as fluidly as this here (they are very close, though).

So overall not the most memorable Gladwell but still an interesting book that can help the more reflective manager, strategist or general thinker play out intriguing scenarios and understand some basics of 'David and Goliath' mechanics.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Not Gladwell's Best, 29 April 2014
I have read all of Gladwell's books and would rate this as his least convincing. The topic of the book encapsulated in the title and Gladwell's gloss of the biblical tale therein is an important one, there is however a great deal of overstretch in his attempt to link the disparate strands within each chapter to the central theme. The latter is not something Gladwell usually struggles with. I wonder whether this book was rushed to market? Most Gladwelll fans will no doubt forgive him for a marginal drop in his usually very high standards.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Enjoyable but flawed, 4 Jan 2014
This review is from: David and Goliath: Underdogs, Misfits and the Art of Battling Giants (Hardcover)
I am a big Gladwell fan generally, but, while I found this book to be a good read, it is not without flaws ( in my opinion).

On the plus side, Gladwell has yet again delivered a book that is so well written that it us difficult to put down. Its upbeat, easy tone makes easy work of what could quite easily be a dull read at the hands if another writer. The book is full of interesting anecdotes and covers numerous topics, from the birth of Impressionism to aspects of the civil rights struggle.

However, I found it lacking in a number of ways. (Spoiler alert). I found a lot of the section about Goliath himself to be pure speculation. He claims scientists now believe that Goliath suffered from a growth disorder and may have been partially sighted. I think he would have better made his point if his arguments were based on facts and not speculation about events thousands of years ago. Secondly, while a lot if the topics covered are fascinating, the book is a bit disjointed and jumps back and forth between anecdotes. I found some of his remarks distasteful and flippant also. In a chapter relating to resistance against the Nazis, Gladwell notes 'there are real limits to what evil and misfortune can accomplish' . Try telling that to the families of the six million people who were slaughtered. He also cites a lady who felt se had to forgive the paedophile murderer if her child, because her best friend is into S&M and it would be hypocritical to forgive her frend's fetish for bondage but not to forgive the murderer's. This seems like a ridiculous statement. How are the acts I two consenting adults comparable to the kidnapping and murder of a child. On a lighter note, a Spanish saying is both spelled and translated incorrectly.

Overall it was an enjoyable but flawed read, in my view. If you like Gladwell , I think you will like this; just maybe not as much as his voter books.
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